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Screw the Rules, I Make Them!

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"Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

Simply put, it's when an enforcer of the rules thinks that they are exempt from those rules.

Just as some think they are above the law because they can buy their way out of it, some think they are above the law because they enforce the laws. Through influence, political power, being in office, or sheer force, they believe that the law does not apply to them, or will allow them to do as they please. This is especially done by or in reference to the kinds of things that the laws are intended to protect againstcorrupt policemen, politicians, gang leaders and the like. They can also said to be "a law unto themselves".

Often expressed by the comment, "I am the (insert governing body here)!" (but saying it is not enough, there has to be some authority the character has). Probably inspired by "L'Etat, c'est moi" (I am the State.) from Louis XIV (although he may not have actually said it).

To count as this trope, it needs to meet these points:

  • Bob is charged with enforcing the rules.
  • Bob does things not even he is allowed to do, because he now feels he is above the rules.

What this is not:

Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! is when a friend or relative takes advantage of people who follow this trope.

Compare, of course, Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Appeal to Force, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, My Rules Are Not Your Rules, Because I Said So, Single-Target Law, Moving the Goalposts, and Loophole Abuse. Railroading, when done in defiance of the rules as written, qualifies too.

Contrast Forgot I Could Change the Rules (someone is empowered to change the rules, but forgets that power at first).

A possible sub-trope of Straw Hypocrite.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: Subverted with Hahari Hanazono. As much as she will shamelessly abuse Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, she tends to be considerate in the actual exercise of her authority. Case in point: Her first action upon joining Rentarou's family was to buy his school and make herself its chairwoman. As chairwoman, however, she is careful to avoid abusing her power such as declining to directly intervene in preserving Iku's baseball club to avoid showing favoritism or Miss Naddy's issues with a senior teacher because she knows Naddy herself wouldn't want that. She will still help when able, such as being part of Iku's team when she has to play a game with another school, or joining the rest of the family to appeal to the senior teacher directly.
  • At the beginning of the Sora Unchained arc of Ah! My Goddess, Chihiro assumes full control of the challenge competition over whether or not Sora can refuse her appointment to be Keichii's successor as head of the Nekomi Motor Club under Article 26, Clause 5 of the Motor Club rules, which places said authority in the control of the President Emeritus (Namely, her). When Belldandy points out that Article 26 only has four clauses, Chihiro grabs the rulebook and a pen and adds clause five on the spot. Nobody even tries to call her out on this.
  • Combined with Screw the Rules, I Have Money! in Beelzebub. Himekawa and his friends are playing an online game. Their opponents start cheating using magic to give them unbeatable abilities. Himekawa buys the whole gaming company so he can have the code altered to allow his team to become zombies to beat their opponents.
  • Death Note: When Light becomes fully aware of Ryuk and the Death Note again after his Memory Gambit, and remembers that he asked Ryuk to put a couple of fake rules on the Death Note (which L must then assume to be real), he goes into a little mental rant about how he is basically a god because he can change the rules like that. It's no longer clear how fully he recognizes that he didn't change the rules.
  • Dragon Ball Z: During the Cell Games, Cell pulls this off. During his fight with Goku, he decides the ring is standing in the way of his entertainment and proceeds to blow it up, thus eliminating the risk of a victory by ringout.
  • Dragon Ball Super: The Tournament of Power was announced with a strict "no weapon" policy. However, as several contestants started using specific items to defeat the others (such as Master Roshi using containers for the Evil Containment Wave and several universes giving Potaras to their champions), the Zen'Os — who organized the tournament in the first place — allowed these specific instances because they looked cool (shutting down all the complaints with an enthusiastic smile and a Death Glare).
  • Fate Series:
    • Gilgamesh said and does this word by word during Carnival Phantasm while stabbing Lancer with hundreds of blades with Gate of Babylon.
    • Nero Claudius possesses the ability "Imperial Privilege EX", which basically lets her say "I am the Emperor, so I decide what I am able to do!" It's what allows her to be a good fighter when historically Nero was no such thing (even in the Nasuverse): she decides she should be a good fighter, so she is. Skills she gains this way are only temporary though, and she will quickly forget them when they're not in use.
  • Komi Can't Communicate: Kawai Rami is fully prepared to become Prime Minister of Japan and legalize polygamy if it means she will be able to stay with Tadano even though he's already dating Komi.
  • For sheer political power, none of the other examples on the list surpass Mobile Fighter G Gundam's Prime Minister Wong. How powerful is Wong? Well, thanks to Master Asia's victory in the Gundam Fight four years ago, Wong rules the universe. This allows him to screw the rules however he likes, from turning the Fight into a Deadly Game where attacking the cockpit is allowed to allowing Fighters into the finals who were blatantly defeated and/or disqualified. His counterpart in the manga has a line predating Gilgamesh below:
    Wong: To put it lightly, I don't just make the rules, I am the rules!
  • One Piece overlaps this with Diplomatic Impunity. The World Nobles use their position as descendants of the Twenty Kings who originally founded the (highly corrupt) World Government to do as they please whenever and wherever they go, and anyone who tries to interfere with or touch them in anyway will face the power of an Admiral. They're even allowed to shoot people in broad daylight without punishment.
    • And if that isn't enough, during the battle of Marineford, Donquixote Doflamingo gives a speech about how the ones with the most power get to decide the meaning of justice, and that Marineford was neutral ground due to the fact that everything is Written by the Winners.
    • This becomes especially evident when it's revealed that Doflamingo, the most psychotic member of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, is a former World Noble. He may have left them, but Blackmail still leaves him with enough power to outright deceive the entire world into believing that he had abdicated his position as a Warlord just to trick a mere ten people, something that would've been impossible otherwise.
  • Gold Watch from Ouroboros: “The ones who can effortlessly crush that tiny life of yours should be the police too, right?”
  • Rosario + Vampire: Kuyo, the head of Yokai Academy's Student Police, regularly exploited his authority to make the other students' lives as miserable as possible, and everyone is too afraid of him to try and stop it. It's only when Tsukune and co. give him a well-deserved ass-kicking that Kuyo finally pays his dues.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Maximillion Pegasus is an interesting example. He abuses his position as creator of Duel Monsters to stack his deck cards that have never been released to the public because Pegasus himself felt they were too powerful for general circulation. Given that he constantly calls people like Keith on their own cheating (he even kills Keith for cheating in the manga via Penalty Game), it's pretty hypocritical. He also explicitly cheats by using his Millenium Eye to read the mind of his opponent (the cards in their hand, in particular) and counter their strategies before they can even use them.
    • The Paradox Brothers seem to make up the rules of the labyrinth duel as they go, to the point where Joey accuses them of this trope. Even if they are cheating or lying about the rules, the rules they designed for the labyrinth duel are so convoluted that it's nearly impossible to tell if they're lying about things like all flying monsters being banned from the maze.
    • Filler Villain Noah Kaiba does the same thing. As the ruler of the Virtual World, Noah is able to enforce all of his Deck Master rules, frequently calling out his henchmen, The Big 5, when they either a) cheat in duels or b) attempt to leave the Virtual World without having first won a duel. Yet during his matches against Kaiba and Yugi/Yami, Noah cheats repeatedly, using Kaiba's brother as a shield against his attacks. When he's actually beaten by Yami, he steals Mokuba's body despite not having won a duel, and tries to escape into the real world, something he himself forbid The Big 5 from doing.
    • Though when The Big 5 take over Honda's body, Noah does let them cheat. While there's nothing saying you can't fuse your Deckmaster with another monster, The Big 5 fuse all their own Deckmasters together, despite only being one player.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, during Speed Duels, players can use a one-per-duel special skill that has varying effects depending on the player (Playmaker, for example, can create an Extra Deck monster out of nowhere when his life points drop below 1000). During Master Duels, however, Skills are forbidden. Queen is able to use her Skill during a Master Duel account of being in charge of the company that designed the network and evidently having written herself in as an exception. She's even called on it, using this trope as a response.

    Comic Books 
  • This is more or less the shtick of the Grandmaster, from The Avengers and Contest of Champions (1982), as well as The Maestro who usurps the Grandmaster in Contest of Champions (2015)''.
  • Doctor Doom, the benevolent ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, will not let legal technicalities get in the way of his regime. After all, isn't it the duty of a ruler to know when to set aside the rules?
    • A specific example comes to mind when, in one story, his subjects demanded that he obey an ancient law and step down as ruler of Latveria in favor of Prince Zorba. Doom's reaction was less than gracious:
      Doom: You believe laws written on paper are more powerful than my ultimate weapons? To think I've wasted my energies trying to be fair with you savages! But no more! You've brought your destruction upon yourselves!
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Defied by Judge Dredd, despite his catchphrase of "I am the law", which would usually be a dead giveaway. He is ruthlessly strict about adhering to the laws of Megacity One, and the conflicts this sometimes cause with his sense of justice have provided some of the series' richest Character Development. In Dredd's case, this catchphrase refers to his absolute authority to punish violations of the law as he sees fit, not to making his own laws. On the contrary, in one storyline where he is authorized to make law on the spot to achieve the government's goals, he's very uncomfortable about it. The idea of the law being consistent and not playing favorites is very important to him, after all.
    • Chief Judges have been known to play it straight, particularly Cal (an insane despot), MacGruder (who went senile), Silver (a ruthless authoritarian) and Sinfield (a corrupt careerist). Though even then, there are still some laws even they can't arbitrarily change. The Law of Gravity, for example.
  • In Geoff Johns' Shazam! ongoing, after Billy Batson makes his father the Sixth Ranger of the Shazam Family, the Wizard tells him he has to choose between his father or his five foster siblings to devote his heart towards, due to how the magic spell works. Billy decides that he can change the spell and empower all six of them, because he's the Champion of Magic.
  • The Roarke family from Sin City: a Catholic cardinal, a senator, a surgeon general, and a serial killer. They're considered the most powerful family in the city... and possibly the country.
  • Both Presidents from Transmetropolitan have said that "If the President does it, it's not a crime" to justify their actions. While The Beast was being somewhat ironic, his successor was apparently dead serious. This was a reference to a certain President Richard Nixon, who famously said something similar.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Jameson is making a big load of smoke with his cigar. When it goes out, we can see the sign "No smoking please".
  • The Triple Goddess is apparently either unwilling or even unable to do this in the Witchcraft graphic novel from Vertigo. Frustrated by how many rules they have to follow when punishing someone who attacked their priestesses and desecrated one of their rituals, one asks who made so many rules. The answer: "I seem to remember us, back when everything was new and making rules seemed the thing to be done."
  • The Uncanny X-Men gives us the Gamesmaster who oversees the Deadly Game held between the Upstarts. Note that originally he is not this as he was appointed by Selene and answered to her, but after the Upstart Fitzroy became The Starscream to Selene he was left to conduct the game however he chose. Which, invariably, was "however the hell he felt like that day".

    Fan Works 
  • A Brighter Dark: Ryoma tends to lead in this fashion; if his subordinates don't agree with his views, he uses his influence to effectively force them to do whatever he wants. This attitude contributes heavily to a dozen Hoshidan shoguns deciding to secede, with half allying with Nohr.
  • Danganronpa: The Immersive Learning Program: In the third chapter of Danganronpa: Academy of Discontent, following the discovery of three bodies, Monokuma tells the students that the only Blackened for the trial will be the first killer. However, it is revealed that two of the victims were killed by the third, and he declares that whoever killed the last victim will be the Blackened. When the students call him out of this, he states that one of the rules for the Academy is that he can make new rules whenever he wants.
  • Darling In The Franxx Homecoming: In Chapter 17, after Ichigo has had Zero Two kicked out of Squad 13, Code 059 gives her a What the Hell, Hero?, stating outright that for all of Ichigo's claims of Zero Two being a monster and a danger to Squad 13, it's crystal clear that her attempts to get her away from Hiro and kicked out of their team are just Ichigo abusing her power as leader to get her out of the way so she can have Hiro to herself.
  • Dodged a Beetle: Mayor Bourgeois demonstrates that his Spoiled Brat of a daughter got her entitled attitude straight from him when he gets into an argument with Officer Raincromprix, ordering him to arrest Lila and Marinette for daring to call out Chloé on tripping the latter. When Officer Raincromprix states that "Nobody is above the law," the Mayor snaps back "I am the law!"
  • How I Became Yours: Fire Lord Zuko is called before the Fire Nation Senate to discuss his marriage with Katara, the "Princess" of the Water Tribe. His response is to essentially remind them that he established the senate, and then dismiss the meeting.
  • Mean Rabbit: Despite Izuku performing well in the physical aspects of his Quirk Assessment Test, Aizawa still declares that he placed last and is expelled purely because he's Quirkless. When he challenges this and successfully beats the five other lowest-scored students in a rematch, Aizawa responds by temporarily expelling all five of them instead. Once the 'logical ruse' is exposed the following day in class, Aizawa insists that he's got every right to treat his pupils like shit.
  • Mistake: Watson ends up in critical condition, and Mycroft is initially able to stay nearby because he told the staff that he's Watson's older brother. When the attendant physician finds out the truth, he isn't pleased. However, he decides to ignore the "only family allowed" rule after Mycroft proves that he practically is the British government and could have the entire facility shut down if he desired.
  • My Bride Is a Mermaid: Wedding Bells: In Chapters 3 and 4, upon finding out about Nagasumi's association with the Seto Gang, Mawari's immediate reaction is to go straight to Nagasumi and Sun's house and try to arrest them. However, after sitting down with them and talking things out, Mawari decides to let them go since she was technically off-duty at the time anyway.
  • Restraint: Mai and her family knew about Ozai's Parental Incest towards Azula for years. They wouldn't do anything about it because they couldn't charge the Fire Lord with such an offense.
  • Ruby Pair: Beauticiatron's rationale in "My Fair Tenn" for overriding Tenn's victory and giving it to GIR instead is that her company's financing the pageant, so she can do whatever she wants with it.
  • Savior of Demons: In Chapter 5, Goku, in trying to understand why Frieza is the way he is, asks him why he couldn't just change the rules — after all, he's so strong, nobody could tell him no, right? Frieza tells him that it would be suicidal, even for him, suggesting that he's not the biggest fish in the galactic pond, at least in terms of influence.
  • Sleeper Hit AU: While Hagakure technically scored lower than Midoriya during the Quirk Assessment Test, Aizawa fudged the results so he could expel the latter, believing that her Invisibility Quirk made her more useful than somebody who was Quirkless.
  • System Restore: When the second murderer burns down a cabin, Monobear notes that they destroyed the security camera and monitor inside in the process. Destroying school property typically warrants an immediate punishment; however, Monobear declares that the culprit will get a free pass on this... provided, of course, that they graduate.
  • Think Before You Speak: Aizawa losing this authority is a key factor in shaping the whole Sticks and Stone verse. After years of running his classroom in this fashion, including expelling students whom he personally deemed "not good enough" to become heroes, he's informed by Nedzu that he won't be allowed to kick anyone out anymore. Chafing under this newfound restriction, Aizawa schemes to work around it by manipulating Tensei into spreading Malicious Slander about Izuku, blaming him for how Katsuki injured Tenya in a training accident. He hopes that the public backlash will force U.A. to expel Izuku, even though he wasn't responsible for the incident. Things don't go as planned.
  • Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything: When no one comments when Light lights up a cigarette in a hospital room, he takes that as "proof that the civilised world has laws for the masses and laws for me."
  • Defied in the Stargate SG-1 fic Turning Point, as the future Tok'ra Egeria prefers to act as a queen rather than a fanatical god like the rest of the Goa'uld, with the result that she feels as though she can't amend her rules to save Daniel's life after he kills a man when he is only a slave, even though Egeria recognises that he only killed that man to save a young woman after giving the other man every chance to stand down. Fortunately, Egeria's status as a Reasonable Authority Figure allows her to find a compromise when some of her people make an independent appeal to her to change the rules on Daniel's behalf.
  • What Hath Joined Together: The noble unicorn Orion tries to make Princess Twilight Sparkle invoke this. He goes to Twilight Sparkle to ask her to overturn the laws forbidding his marriage to an earth pony, knowing that Twilight has the authority to do while hoping that she's progressive enough to allow it. Unfortunately, Twilight's upbringing means that she never questioned "the Order's" necessity and respects Celestia far to much to go around her back, and things get worse from there.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Lion King (1994):
    • Scar flat-out tells Sarabi, "I'm the King! I can do whatever I want!"
    • Simba also seems to have the idea as a child that a king can do whatever they want. He expresses as much to Mufasa and tells Zazu that his own betrothal to Nala is going to be the first thing he gets rid of when he becomes king. Then he sings the whole song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" about how he's basically going to do whatever he wants when he is king. It's up to Mufasa to be the guiding figure who explains just what it is that a responsible king does. Simba eventually learns the lesson and returns from his self-exile to depose Scar, who didn't understand what it really means to be king.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: When making the final roll in his gambling game to decide how many cranks to give the platform about to lower Santa and Sally into the furnace, Oogie Boogie rolls "snake eyes" (2). Oogie gets furious and slams the table to reroll the dice and change the result to 11, then cranks the platform as if nothing happened.
  • Throughout Peter Pan, Captain Hook, in going after Peter, is made to promise "not to lay a finger -- or a hook" on him. During the climactic battle, Hook begs Peter to spare his life, which he does — only for Hook to try to attack Peter with his hook when his back is turned. Luckily, Wendy calls out to Peter to look out and he manages to sidestep the attack just in time, leaving Hook to fall into the jaws of the waiting crocodile in the water below.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Ramses tells Moses he can do this for him after Moses accidentally murders an Egyptian slave overseer. Moses is dealing with some serious angst right now, though, and leaves anyway. When Moses returns years later, after Ramses has officially become Pharaoh, the priests Hotep and Huy bring up Moses' outstanding murder charge but Ramses pardons him on the spot.
    Ramses: I am Egypt, the morning and evening star! If I say day is night, it will be written, and you will be what I say you are! I say you are innocent!
  • Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone. She makes the rules for the Wizard's Duel just so she can break them. And break them she does.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Given the name of the movie, it should come as no surprise that Steven Seagal's debut film, Above the Law (1988), is about government officials with this exact mindset. The beginning shows the past of Seagal's character (which looks very similar to Seagal's own past at some points...), which culminates in a scene in Vietnam where high-ranking officials torture a POW far more than the Geneva Convention could possibly allow. The movie then shifts to the main plot, a tale about top dogs in the CIA smuggling drugs and plotting to assassinate a Senator just to make sure their operations in Central America go just as planned.
  • When Jasmine can't marry Aladdin in the 2019 live action remake, the Sultan abdicates, putting Jasmine in charge and says Screw The Rules, You Make Them.
  • The main character in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You'd be amazed at what one dope fiend can get away with just by flashing a badge.
  • In the movie Conspiracy (2001), a group of Nazi bureaucrats debate the planning for the Holocaust. The wholesale extermination keeps interfering with the established racial laws as defended by Dr. Stuckart (mostly because he wrote them himself). His opponent Dr. Klopfer eventually retorts that they'll just change them — since most of the men present are trained lawyers, they can create basically any law they like so long as it confers with Hitler's directives.
  • Councillor Dupont from Equilibrium, the former leader "Father" died and Dupont has been pretending to be him ever since and just started making up any old laws he pleased. He's also a "sense offender", breaking one of the major laws their society was built upon, one he enforces as severely as possible putting people to death without trial while ignoring it himself. Commentaries from the movie's makers says they see belief in exemption from their own oppressive rules is a mark of a despot.
  • Frost/Nixon recreates the interviews that produced the page quote
    When the President does it, it's not illegal.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: As Professor Dumbledore and Harry get ready to Disapparate out to an oceanside cave for a locket which is meant to be one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, there's this exchange between student and teacher:
    Harry: Sir -- I thought we weren't allowed to apparate within Hogwarts.
    Dumbledore: Well, being me...has its privileges.
    • Slightly subverted in that it's not a rule per se, it's a protective ward (which Dumbledore, presumably, has the authority—or magical power—to turn off/go through).
  • The Hunger Games: The Gamemasters announce that two people can live if they're from the same district, then revoke it at the end when two actually manage to fill that condition. Katniss showed them up by threatening a suicide pact with Peeta, forcing them to make good on the original promise so they'd have someone to crown a victor instead of a martyr.
  • Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion: The chief of homicide kills his girlfriend just to see if being a high-ranking policeman means he can get away with murder. He can.
  • A heartwarming use in A Knight's Tale. When William is revealed as a common yeoman impersonating a knight, he's put in the stocks. Then Prince Edward, to whom William twice showed kindness during a joust, turns up and knights him, declaring:
    "He may appear to be of humble origins, but my personal historians have discovered that he is descended from an ancient royal line. This is my word, and as such it is beyond contestation."
    • Then again, he's likely saying the truth anyway—anyone is related to a royal line if you look far enough in the past.
  • The entire point of Lakeview Terrace is that the deranged neighbor that cruelly harasses the protagonists is a cop, and the other cops are more likely to back him up in a "my word against his" situation.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome:
    Aunty Entity: You think I don't know the law? Wasn't it me who wrote it?
    • Averted however as the plot is set off because Aunty Entity WON'T break her own Law.
  • In The Purge, where a group known as the New Founding Fathers have taken over America and made crime legal for 12 hours out of the year, they also passed laws that exclude them from being targeted by the annual anarchy they've created.
  • Shakespeare in Love contains a positive and helpful version of this trope. When Mr. Tilney tries to arrest the players at the end of the play for letting Viola act on stage, Queen Elizabeth reveals her presence in the crowd and comes down to the stage to settle the issue. Absolutely nobody believes for even a second that Viola is merely a very pretty young man playing a woman's role, but when the queen declares it to be so ("The illusion is remarkable") and lets Tilney off the hook, nobody can contradict her. Slightly played with, however- Viola almost curtseys to the queen, but Elizabeth conveys with the merest flicker of her eyes that if Viola screws up on this one thing (by effectively admitting she's a woman) then not even she can do anything, so Viola catches herself and bows like a man instead.
  • General Deveraux in The Siege plays it straight, bellowing "I AM the law! Right here, right now, I am the law!" at Denzel Washington when he tries to arrest him for murder, which was not covered under the martial law he had been tasked with. It's worth pointing out the Willis' General had actually protested against being given authority under martial law as being a bad idea in the first place, although it appears his perception and self-assessment disappeared once he was given it. Alternatively, it could be seen as Briar Patching, that he was against it simply so that he would be in charge of it once it was approved anyway.
  • The Slipper and the Rose: A downplayed example; when it becomes clear Prince Edward intends to marry Cinderella, and will not be dissuaded, the king is left in a quandary as this not only goes against the alliance he's trying to forge with a neighboring kingdom, it goes against the kingdom's constitution, a constitution that he just so happened to write, so he can change it if he wants. While that is true, it doesn't change the fact that his son has basically slighted another monarch and so he has to find another solution for that angle.
  • Famously uttered by Palpatine in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Mace Windu confronts Chancellor Palpatine in his office in order to arrest him for being a Sith Lord and tells him that the Senate will decide his fate, to which Palpatine replies, "I AM THE SENATE.", in a low and intimidating voice. Palpatine, now revealed as Darth Sidious, kills three of the Jedi's best swordsmen (under Yoda, Anakin, Windu and Obi-Wan of course, but still celebrated swordsmen) in mere seconds and is climactically "defeated" by Windu in time for Anakin to arrive and "save" him. Darth Vader is born and Palpatine's plan to kill the Jedi is validated by the Senate under the pretense that the Jedi tried to assassinate him. Because the Senate granted him emergency powers, his boast is one he is quite within his legal rights to carry out. The Republic had already become a People's Republic of Tyranny before he renamed it to The Empire.
    Darth Sidious: I will make it legal.
  • Timbuktu: One particularly gross jihadist ask a girl's mother if he can marry the girl. When the mother says no, he says he'll come back "in a bad way", and he later takes the girl by force. When the imam goes to the jihadists and explains how this is a violation of custom — taking the girl without her consent or her mother's consent, without even bothering to ask her male guardian — the jihadists give a long winded explanation that basically boils down to 1) they're in charge, 2) the man is "pious" and so deserves a wife, and 3) they decide what's holy and lawful, so tough luck.
  • As Denzel Washington's character Alonzo Harris in Training Day put it, "I am the police! King Kong ain't got shit on me!"
  • Underworld (2003): Viktor, along with the other vampire elders, drafted a law forbidding vampires from feeding on humans, but Viktor, according to Kraven, "never could follow his own rules" and thus gorged on human blood regularly. Selene's family were among his victims.
  • Batman Begins combines this with Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. While having dinner at a fancy restaurant, Bruce's dates essentially strip and start bathing in the fountain. When asked to leave, Bruce simply buys the restaurant. Then as the new owner, changes the rules about what's allowed to happen in the fountain.
  • The Dark Knight: Harvey Dent takes Rachel out to dinner, and while he does so talks about how hard it was to get reservations. Soon after this, Bruce "just so happens" to arrive with his own date, and suggests they combine their tables.
    Harvey: I'm not sure they'll let us.
    Bruce: Oh they should, I own the place. (gestures to the staff)

    Game Shows 
  • Greg Davies, the titular Taskmaster, utterly revels in this. Typically it's Rule of Funny that determines whether he will follow the rules he set, bend them, or outright break them, though he's also willing to bend or break his rules to reward creativity or to spite contestants who draw his ire.
    Greg Davies: Welcome to the Taskmaster series six grand finale! Nine weeks of task bedlam are behind us and the competitors have been ravaged by the challenges they've completed along the way! Sure I've judged these people harshly, and sure I've made some terrible and grossly unfair decisions, but that is my right!

  • Implied in a joke involving a particularly unpopular village head: One day, while he was walking around the village at night, a young man bumped into him, and claimed that he couldn't see him because it was too dark. The next day the head passed a rule saying everyone walking on the streets at night must carry a lantern. That night, the same man bumped into him again, and showed the lantern to the annoyed village head and pointed out that there is no rule that the lantern should have a candle. The village head made an Obvious Rule Patch the next day, saying that the lantern must also have a candle. That night, the man bumped into him again, and this time the loophole was that the rule doesn't say the candle has to be lit. The embarrassed head cancelled the rule on the following day. At no point in the joke does the village head consider carrying a candle himself.


By Author:

  • David Weber:
    • Many villains in the Honor Harrington series have this attitude. In particular the People's Republic of Haven's Legislaturalists, their successor the Committee of Public Safety, the Star Kingdom of Manticore's High Ridge Government, and the Solarian League's "Five Mandarins". All these groups consistently make the same blunder in overestimating just how much the people they rule over are willing to put up with and continuously trying to game their respective systems when it's abundantly clear they're making terrible mistakes.
    • Safehold:
      • A more benign version occurs in the fifth book, How Firm a Foundation. Empress Sharleyan has arrived in Corisande to pronounce sentencing on the traitors of the Northern Conspiracy. However, while the law is clear on their guilt and their punishment, Sharleyan uses her royal prerogative to pardon those who were blackmailed, threatened, duped, or just too angry or foolish to realize what they were getting into.
      • The Group of Four are the more traditional example. Zhaspahr Clyntahn in particular is perfectly willing to write dispensations for the very technological advances he condemns for the specific purpose of making sure those advances can be used by the Church to crush the heretics.

By Work:

  • 2666: Implied with the mayor of Santa Teresa.
  • In Animal Farm, the dictator pig Napoleon rewrites the original constitution of Animal Farm multiple times to make his actions legal (since most animals are dumber than pigs, they didn't realise the secret rewritings). Eventually all the laws on equality and freedoms are reduced to one, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
  • In Brave New World World Controller Mustopha Mond, responding to Bernard's shock that he owns banned books, explains that "As I make the rules, I can also break them. With impunity, Mr. Marx, which I'm afraid you cannot do." (Then again, only he and the savage John would even be interested in the banned books.)
  • In A Brother's Price the protagonist's sister, Corelle, is left in charge of the family farm while the mothers and elder sisters are away. She chooses to do the one thing she was not allowed to do: leave the farm unguarded while she visits the pretty son of their neighbours. When the actual authorities return, they are not amused.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Subverted in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy casts a spell "to make hidden things visible" which immediately reveals Aslan. When she expresses surprise that Aslan could be affected by a simple spell, he replies "do you think I wouldn't follow my own rules?"
  • Subverted in L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s The Corean Chronicles. When Mykel's wastrel brother Venicet shows up in Tempre and expects to be given a cushy court position just because he's the brother of the newly declared Lord Protector, Mykel flat out tells him that he couldn't provide his brother with a steady income unless he was willing to take a steady job, as this was the rule he had laid down for everyone else, and as ruler he couldn't decree one thing and do something else. Then he gave his brother what pocket change he had on him and showed him the door.
  • In the Deryni works, Edmund Loris was Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd, but in the aftermath of the schism in High Deryni, he was stripped of his office and imprisoned in a monastery. On his escape, he simply takes up where he left off, calling himself Primate when he first confronts Istelyn and takes him prisoner in The Bishop's Heir. So far as he's concerned, Cardiel, Arilan, Istelyn and the rest are the traitors to the Church, and he Loris is the only one who can bestow that label. (Naturally, Istelyn doesn't agree; in a subsequent argument after Dhugal's escape with Sidana and Llewell's capture by Kelson's forces, Istelyn reminds Loris that the bishops deprived him of his office and its authority.) When the new Primate Archbishop Bradene sends a writ of excommunication against Loris, Judhael, Caitrin, and their followers, Loris claims it has no force. In response to this, Loris strips Istelyn of his office as priest and excommunicates him (on the basis of his old authority) expressly so Istelyn can be executed (hanged, drawn and quartered) as a traitor.
  • Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld novels, can say this, although he prefers not to. Anyway, he has established legal precedent going thousands of years on his side, namely "Ego sic dico."
    Vetinari: The law must be obeyed, Miss Dearheart. Even tyrants have to obey the law. [Beat] No, I tell a lie, tyrants do not have to obey the law, obviously, but they do have to observe the niceties. At least, I do.
    • Defied (most of the time) by Sam Vimes, because he knows where breaking the rules it would sometimes be convenient to break would lead. He's seen people go there. He's not going.
    • Sam Vimes' ancestors served as a means to ensure that the rulers of Ankh Morpork would not do this for too long. Vetinari knows about this, though whether he fears Vimes is doubtful. He does acknowledge Vimes as a force to reckon with, though, and prefers to work with him, not against him. (This may be because "in a world of curves, [Vimes] moves in straight lines", which Vetinari finds useful.)
  • In A Fox's Tale, Lord Drake demands that all people with "talents" (e.g. manipulating elements or shapeshifting) be registered, apparently so he can make an army out of them. Conveniently enough, Lord Drake doesn't register himself despite being a spiritkin, a talent and an arcane mage. Lampshaded by Jona, when, after Ember mentions this information, he asks, "Of course not, who makes laws and then follows them himself?"
  • Harry Potter
    • Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When a student calls her out for violating her own arbitrary rules, she simply gives the student detention — which in her case involves Cold-Blooded Torture.
    • And similarly, Minister Fudge with his "Laws can be changed!" when he clearly is circumventing the legal lawmaking process. Which was actually hilarious, because the invoked law was necessary self-defense. So Fudge meant that he could change the law so that when you're attacked in Muggle territory, it would be illegal to defend yourself!
    • The Ministry of Magic misrepresent their powers multiple times by threatening Harry with punishment they have no authority to carry out. First in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when a house-elf casts a spell in the Dursley residence in the presence of muggles, they send Harry a letter informing him that he has broken the law and that further infringement may lead to expulsion from Hogwarts (in reality the Ministry doesn't have the legal authority to suspend Hogwarts students). In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, after Harry has used magic to defend the lives of himself and his cousin, the Ministry sends him a letter stating that he has in fact been suspended from Hogwarts and that a ministry official would arrive soon to destroy his wand (which they don't have the authority to do either, at least not without a trial). They might have carried out their threat if Dumbledore hadn't been on the ball. However, even after Dumbledore had reminded the Minister of Magic of the law, the Ministry still maintained in their follow-up letter to Harry that he should "consider himself suspended from school pending further enquiries."
    • Arthur Weasley did this with his enchanted car. Enchanting muggle items to do things other than what they were originally designed for is illegal. For example, enchanting the car to be Bigger on the Inside is legal since it was designed to carry passengers and cargo in the first place. But enchanting it to fly is illegal, since cars are obviously not intended to do that. But the law in question was written by the head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office...Arthur Weasley. He wrote the law so that such enchantments would be allowed if he didn't intend to actually use them. Thus creating a loophole that allowed him to enchant his car with abilities he saw fit, apparently because it amused him.
  • In The Hunger Games, the Gamemasters bring up the possibility of two victors in the normal There Can Be Only One challenge, only to revoke it when that possibility actually becomes reality. They didn't count on the survivors trying to commit suicide to spite them, so they flip-flopped again to prevent the two from becoming martyrs.
  • In The Locked Tomb, Teacher eventually clarifies that all imperial law derives from the Emperor Undying and because he personally set the rules under which they are to operate within Canaan House, every other law is overridden. Consequently, the one law that binds them is to never open a locked door without permission. The already contentious relations between several Houses sour rapidly when they realize the emperor has tacitly permitted them to murder each other. Promoting inter-house strife was likely not the intent but completing the lyctoral process requires necromancers to consume the souls of their dead cavaliers, so that omission was significant.
  • Pale:
    • The laws of magic can be quite open to interpretation, and where there is sufficient grey area, entities known as the Judges will arbitrate, with their decisions on the matter forming the basis for magical law going forward. Judges are expected to be (and to a certain degree are forced to be) fair and impartial. But when one character becomes the new Carmine Judge, he immediately begins abusing his privilege to screw over his enemies in Practitioner society, becoming one of the biggest antagonists.
    • Abraham Musser is from a very old and powerful family of Practitioners, and the heads of the Musser family act as hosts to the spirits of all past heads of the family, making him more a distillation of the family itself rather than an individual man. At one point, he argues with the Judges that his family is so historied, entrenched, and influential, that in certain contexts, he is simply right by virtue of who he is. To the astonishment of the main characters, the Judges find themselves forced to concede the point.
  • A twist in the Warlock of Gramarye book The Warlock in Spite of Himself: Queen Katherine insists that the law says captured rebels must be executed, and therefore she cannot pardon them. It's her wiser advisors, realizing that the circumstances of the rebellion mean mercy would be the better ploy, who tell her, "The law of the land is the Queen" — setting a very bad precedent, but executing these rebels would cause major and possibly worse problems.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf: Archangel gives a subordinate a lesson in Firm rules.
    Archangel: You tried to kill me!
    Subordinate: I was just following the rules. "If an agent becomes a threat to the Firm or the country, they are to be killed."
    Archangel: Don't you DARE quote the rules to me! I WROTE THEM! You can bet there's going to be an amendment that clearly states that that rule DOES NOT APPLY TO ME!
  • Babylon 5: Averted in the episode "Atonement", when Delenn goes to her clan council to hear the verdict on her marriage even though she is the most powerful woman in Minbar. On the other hand, she seemed to be willing to make Minbari policy practically by herself earlier. Perhaps the discrepancy can be justified by saying the one was an unusual security crisis and the other was just a personal matter. Also, these were her kin, after all. Knowing Delenn, she would have found some way of getting past an unfavorable decision no matter what. Fortunately, there was a convenient way of justifying her engagement to Sheridan.
  • Blackadder: This is Queenie's preferred method of winning arguments with her subordinates — simply retort "Who's Queen?" to convince them to agree with her.
    Melchett: [resigned] As you say, Majesty, there were these magnificent orange elephants which were coming...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A benevolent example shows up when Deepscan is approached on conducting industrial espionage on a Internet firm run by Wolfram & Hart. Kennedy points out they cannot become involved, however since she runs Deepscan goes Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! and does so anyway.
  • Deus Salve O Rei: Played for laughs when Prince Rodolfo makes an anti-adultery law in an attempt at making himself relevant, specifically seeking to punish the cheater's lovers. He then revokes the law the moment it looks like he might be punished himself, since he is a womanizer that sleeps with any beautiful woman that catches his fancy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Awakening", villainous local squire Sir George Hutchinson has it pointed out to him that he is detaining people illegally. His response? "As the local magistrate, I will find myself quite innocent."
    • At the end of "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor (who up until this point has refused to save some humans whose deaths are part of history) breaks down and realizes that since he is last of the Time Lords, this trope applies to him: "Do you know who that leaves? ME! It's taken me all these years to realize it, but all those laws of time are mine. And they will obey ME! ". It... doesn't end very welltime is more resilient than he realizes, and the woman he rescues commits suicide moments thereafter, preserving the integrity of history and sending the Doctor into a Heroic BSoD over his arrogance. It's actually rather interesting to realize that in fact, he is virtually repeating, verbatim, what a certain friend of his has been saying for quite a while now....
      • In "The End of Time", we learn that the entire race of Time Lords had reached a similar conclusion, and that's why the Doctor had to wipe them out in the first place.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Gilead is based upon an extremely harsh form of Christianity and everyone is expected to remain pure and virtuous, but several of the Commanders blatantly flout the rules by indulging in banned pastimes, having illicit relations with their Handmaids and attending an elaborate, if tacky, brothel.
    • And then averted when Putnam is brought to trial for his relationship with Janine that caused her to go off the deep end. Turns out Putnam's own wife recommended that he get the harshest punishment possible; Fred's face when he realises that even Commanders aren't safe from Gilead's regime is a sight to see.
  • Horrible Histories:
    • The English Civil War song:
      King Charles I: I am the king, I can do what I like!
      Start up a war, or a big tax hike!
      Got a French wife, she's a Catholic...
      Roundheads: Oh Lord!
      Really, King Charles, we're not quite sure...
      Charles: Insolence! Is that how you talk to the crown?
      I am the king, I'll just close parliament down!
      Roundhead: I think you'll find that's in breach of due process.
      Cavalier: Here's what we say to that: Pffft! Now, clear out this mess!
    • Also, Nero in the Olympics song:
      Crashed my racing chariot, but still awarded gold
      Hey, my Olympics, my rules! To argue would be bold!
      I won every medal that was op for grabs
      The crowd loved it! Well, they had to, or I would have had them stabbed!
  • Julius Caesar (2003): After marching on Rome with his army, Sulla barges into the Senate hall and has soldiers posted to ensure they will do his bidding. When one Senator asks if this is contrary to Roman law, Sulla replies that he "just changed Roman law". Sulla then orders his execution when the Senator continues annoying him.
  • Joan of Arc: When conferring a singular honor on the titular heroine, King Charles VII remarks on the seemingly strange idea that birth and lineage are often held up as more important than a person's character, but as king he is able to ignore that convention and thus award Joan the honor due her loyalty and service.
    • Realistically speaking, it's doubtful that a 15th century French monarch would have said any such thing; the Fedual system — which divided society into a rigid class structure — was still very much alive at the time, and elements of it persisted up until the French Revolution in the 18th century.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Characters do this sometimes. Elliot Stabler does this almost constantly. He regularly uses questionable or outright illegal interrogation techniques (like threatening to break a suspect's neck), uses his badge to try getting his daughter Kathleen out of trouble (at one point saying that her breaking into someone's house is a "harmless prank"), and generally fails to actually follow 90% of the rules that police officers are supposed to be following. If it wasn't for his 97% closer rate, it is pretty clear he would have had the Turn in Your Badge speech a long time ago.
  • Leverage: "The Bank Shot Job" in the first season centers around a corrupt small town judge who totally believes this trope will save him. The opposite happens.
  • Life on Mars (2006) (specifically, Gene Hunt's last line in the series):
    Sam: I should do you in for speeding! You're not above the law, you know!
    Gene: What are you talking about, Tyler? I am the law!
  • Merlin (2008):
    • King Uther in "The Crystal Cave". He has magic banned, yet orders Gaius to use it to save Morgana.
    • The reason why and how King Arthur marries Guinevere. The fact that she's a servant girl in this version is only brought up a couple times, and poses virtually no obstacle for Arthur. He wants to marry this woman, so he does. No arguments.
    • When his father was king, in contrast, Arthur and Gwen had to keep their relationship secret.
  • New Amsterdam (2018): The pilot has new medical director Max Goodwin telling the assembled hospital staff that they need to change things majorly. He then backs it up by firing the entire cardiac surgeon staff (he hires one back) and saying that "anyone who puts billing over patient care is terminated, no matter how much money they bring in." He then tells other surgeons they'll be getting actual attendings and not just college med students with no training. He ignores the number of doctors leaving (some calling their lawyers) as he continues to declare that they are no longer going to use the excuse of "the system is too big to change because we are the system." Over the course of the series, Goodwin shows he's all too willing to reshape the status quo of the hospital over the objections of the board.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Conklin lives this trope. One example, out of many, is his using the high school cafeteria freezer to store his meat in "Home Cooked Meal".
  • Parks and Recreation: In Season 5, Leslie gets Ron to host the annual BBQ that the parks department puts on. Ron shows up with no food and a live pig, stating that he is going to kill and cook the pig. When a Park Ranger comes up and asks him what is up, Ron presents the Park Ranger with a paper, saying that it is a permit, However, the permit only says "I can do what I want -Ron" as Ron is the head of the Parks Department and the Park Ranger's boss. However, it is subverted as the Park Ranger points out that while he is the head of the Parks Department, "It’s not a parks thing. It’s against like three laws and a dozen health codes."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Scotty gets a great one in the episode "Relics". He and Geordi are attempting to repair a beat-up old rust bucket of a ship and tells Geordi to shunt some fuel to an auxiliary tank. Geordi protests that the system specs say doing so will blow everything up. Scotty, being the author of said specs, admits that "a good engineer is always a wee bit conservative, at least on paper" and that the procedure will work.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In the episode "The Doomsday Machine", Kirk pretty much pulls this trope, telling Spock to retake command of the Enterprise under his "personal authority as captain" before Commodore Decker ends up destroying the ship and killing his crew in his maddened Roaring Rampage of Revenge against an ancient machine destroying planets.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: A man who runs a business starts shooting his employees dead for poor grammar, and when confronted about it claims he's allowed since it's his company. The employee questioning this points out he could have just corrected them, something the man genuinely hadn't thought about.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Professor Crumbs gives full Wizard status to both Justin and Alex, despite the fact that there's a rule saying that only one wizard per family can be a full wizard. This is so Justin can take over his position as headmaster of WizTech. The only reason he could possibly be allowed to disregard the rules in this manner is because he is the head of the governing body that created them.
  • Yes, Minister: In Yes, Prime Minister, a reporter asks Bernard if what Hacker has done violates the Official Secrets Act. He tries to deflect this by saying "The Prime Minister can clear anything", which only leads to being backed into a corner, and headlines of "WOOLLEY SAYS THE PRIME MINISTER IS ABOVE THE LAW", followed by Hacker lecturing him on eight ways to dodge a direct question.

    Professional Wrestling 
    • The heel General Managers aren't much better...and usually once they screw the rules too much, they're in line for a firing or a major beatdown from the face wrestler they've likely been feuding with for the past few months.
    • There have been matches where the Heel was allowed to alter the stipulations of the match, during the match, as many times as they want.
    • A running theme in pro wrestling is the claim that no one, not even the owner, can override a referee's decision. This is countered by the fact that the owner or GM can change the rules of the match, even retroactively. So the referee's ruling of a disqualification, for example, isn't overridden, it's just that it no longer matters because it just retroactively became a no disqualification match.
    • It should be noted that while Mick Foley was Commissioner in 2000, he would overrule the referee's decision in two different pay per view main events without actually changing the rules, both times causing Chris Benoit to lose out on winning the heavyweight title, once because Foley never saw The Rock actually cause a disqualification (the referee was groggy and thought Rock had hit him with a chair and the title was allowed to change hands on a disqualification) and the other time because The Undertaker had his foot on the rope and the groggy referee didn't notice it. Shane McMahon, who was managing Benoit at the time, would point out the running theme that authority figures weren't allowed to override a referee's decision, but the outcome remained the same anyway.
  • A Worked Shoot variant came during the 2005 Royal Rumble, in which Batista and John Cena both fell over the top rope at the end of the match, landing at the same time. Because of the recent brand split, the RAW referees sided with Batista while Smackdown refs declared Cena the winner, which kept the theme of the night going while those in the back frantically worked at a solution. This was a botch; Batista was supposed to catch himself while Cena fell but went over with more momentum than planned. Fortunately he didn't hit the floor ahead of Cena and thus the original plan could go forward. While the General Managers of RAW and Smackdown had both already left since their roles in the PPV were over, the quick-thinking referees were able to buy time for legitimately angry Vince McMahon to come to the ring and restart the match. And infamously tore both of his quadriceps muscles while climbing into the ring.
  • A particularly egregious example would be the match between Chris Jericho and William Regal at Backlash 2001. Because Regal challenged Jericho to a "Duchess Of Queensbury Rules" match, and Jericho accepted without knowing what that was, it turned out that Regal was allowed to change the rules whenever he was about to lose. Possibly the worst pro wrestling example of Calvinball ever.
  • In the WWE, when Paul Heyman was a general manager, his first act was to put one of the faces into a match. Then no less than 4 times during the match, he'd grab a microphone and say "I'm sorry, I forgot because it's my first day. This match is actually..." and he'd add another stipulation to the match.
  • As of 2013, we have Triple H, the leader of the Authority.
  • The World Famous Kana quickly pushed the bounds of her authority after REINA hired her as a consultant, first getting the tag team titles stripped from Makoto and Ariya, then paying Syuri to betray Lin Byron so Kana and her beloved Arisa Nakajima could be Tag Team champions. Then she took Syuri's REINA World Woman's Title and proclaimed herself REINA's new General Producer, promising to "reform" the fed.

  • One of the major themes of the Problem of Evil (used in "God Is Evil" plots) asks whether God is allowed to do something that goes against his own code of morality. If he is, can he still be considered omnibenevolent? And if he can't, can he still be considered omnipotent? Usually the response is either 1. Yes, God has every capability to do actions against his morality, but he has no reason to. His power is such that he can solve any problem with benevolence, whether or not evil can do with malice (Saying that only benevolent means are used contradicts the In Mysterious Ways idea; Also, focusing on the Moral side of the argument: in some monotheistic religions, the god in question forbids a set of deeds, like murder, but is claimed to perform actions contradicting those teachings because they can, without being called out on it). 2. Morality is defined by the dictates of God, so the question is meaningless (The god in question IS the personification of morality with all his actions). Plato would have a problem with this line of reasoning, but then again, he never thought his gods were omnibenevolent or omnipotent to begin with, (However, Plato's idea of "The ultimate good" wasn't exactly about the Hellenic gods) or 3. Go away kid, ya bother me.
    • Best exemplified by a quote from Epicurus: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both willing and able? Then whence comes evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
  • Invoked without all that bothersome morality by the classic philosophical question, "Can God create a boulder so large that He Himself cannot lift it?" It's a logical problem of omnipotence; if he can't create a boulder too large to lift, he's not all-powerful, and if he can, then he's still not all-powerful. This is sometimes accused of Begging the Question, since it takes God being constrained by logic (which an all-powerful being would not be by definition) as an assumption.
  • This is also a common explanation for the performance of miracles in monotheistic religions. As God created the laws of nature, he can suspend or violate them at will to do things that would normally be impossible.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dogs in the Vineyard: The player characters have this role — as they are commanded to represent the word of the Book of Life, they basically interpret what it means and enforce it as they see fit. Often with guns.
  • Exalted: The Solar Exalted were the rulers of the world in the First Age. As the Great Curse laid upon them by their vanquished foes, the Primordials (titans) started to corrupt them more and more, their rule became more and more tyrannical and cruel. Note that within his domain, a Solar had the right to set almost anything that doesn't threaten the rule of Solars in general as a law, which resulted in some pretty horrible places to live, as well as some pretty... bizarre laws and customs (a whole region in the North where people acted like they lived in a musical!).
  • A quote attributed to Gary Gygax goes something like "DMs roll dice because they like the sound it makes." This is referred to as Rule Zero in most P&P RPGs: The DM makes the rules. Most RPGs encourage the DM to be consistent about the rules, but ultimately it is up to the DM.
  • In Nomine: Asmodeus, Prince of the Game, personifies law as arbitrary declarations that are followed purely because a higher power says to rather than for any good reason — rules of a game, rather then moral obligations.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Golden Rule is "Sometimes a card contradicts the rules; if this occurs, the card text takes precedence."
  • Paranoia makes a particular effort to encourage this attitude. Game Masters are encouraged (if the need arises) to roll the dice in plain view of all the players and deliberately ignore the results just to hammer the point home. This happens a lot in-universe too. Ultraviolet clearance clones are assumed to not only be above suspicion by the Computer, but also be the people who program the Computer and tell it what to think. (They've installed automatic safeguards against blatant "all the other Ultraviolets are traitors" programs, but that's about it.)
  • Pathfinder: Defied with the Oath of the People's Council. Paladins who take this oath are required to enforce the law even on the people who make and enforce it.
  • Violence™: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed suggests that gamemasters modify game results based on his whims towards the players.
    "Try not to give [experience] points to assholes. If the bastard has spend the entire game getting on your nerves and picking fights with the other players, well, who needs that crap?"
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Inquisitors are supposed to uphold the Imperial credo, hunt down daemons and aliens, and eliminate heretics. Does this stop many of them from happily and repeatedly violating said Imperial credo, summoning daemons and using alien technology, and turning to Chaos to further their own agenda? No. No it does not. Fortunately, Inquisitors who go rogue tend to get hunted down and killed by other Inquisitors.
    • All bodies of the Imperium are obligated to incarcerate psykers and either execute or dragoon them into service. No one touches the Emperor who is far and away the most powerful psyker ever despite being dead and immobile, the various institutions have come up with reasons why including the Ecclesiarchy stating because of his divine nature the Emperor is exempt from laws against psykers. They don't even bother lying about it and try to pass it off as holy power rather than psy.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth, frequently makes laws, customs and rules for his Dark Elf subjects that he flaunts himself (such as his ban on male sorcerers, and for a long time his proclamation that nobody else be allowed to ride in a chariot). His mother Morathi has a similarly dismissive approach to following her own rules (as with her treatment of the Cults of Pleasure, which she outlawed, despite being a High Priestess of herself). To all the other Dark Elves their behaviour is a clear case of this trope, though Malekith and Morathi think it's a justified perk of being in charge. Whether Malekith and Morathi really do have the constitutional authority to behave in this fashion is a vexed question, given that "constitutional authority" to Dark Elves means "power to exercise one's tyrannical wishes when one wants".

  • Creon makes this argument to Haemon in Sophocles' Antigone. Naturally it all ends in tears, what with him forgetting that the Gods are more important than kings.
  • This is Nero's response to Seneca when the latter attempts to dissuade him from divorcing his wife Ottavia and marrying his mistress, in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppaea.
  • The broken Jug (Der zerbrochne Krug) by Heinrich von Kleist: Judge Adam clearly thinks he can ignore the rules of procedure. This doesn't work so well when a superior is present to supervise him.
  • In Hamilton the number "The Election of 1800" ends with Madison pointing out how crazy it is to let the loser of a presidential election be the vice president. Jefferson responds with "Ooh!, you know what? We can change that. You know why?...Cuz I'm the president!"
  • In Henry V Princess Katherine of France is reluctant to kiss King Henry V because maidens in France aren't supposed to go around kissing men. Henry dismisses this, reminding her that they're royalty and can do what they want, saying "We are the makers of manners, Kate."

    Video Games 
  • Privately-run servers in video games are very prone to this trope.
    • Even some of the retail servers allow game-masters and moderators to screw the rules of the game...whether this counts is a bit more debatable, as they're usually not used to win anything, just to moderate.
    • A part of MUDs, where the people making the rules would often screw them.
    • Servers of games where you are kicked from hacking by moderators and administrators who are hacking themselves.
  • Benevolent example in Breath of Fire II — a Wyndian with black wings is prophesied to bring about the ruin of their civilization, so all children born with black wings are put to death. When the king's daughter was born so, he vetoed this, imprisoning the one person who knew the secret and sending the child to be raised in a faraway town. Nina has strong black magic, but remains completely benign and a whole-hearted party member throughout the game.
  • Another heroic example in Dragon Age: Inquisition with Leliana if she becomes the Divine. Compared to the other Divine potentials who both have good improvements but afraid to challenge the status quo, Leliana has the most radical change, but those changes are to correct the biased, hypocritical, and corrupt practices of the Chantry after a decade of understanding ever since her Heel–Face Turn.
  • In Oblivion: The Shivering Isles, at one point a guard will tell you that "Only Lord Sheogorath is above the law here." Of course, when you become Sheogorath, they'll still fine you/send you to a dungeon. Typical.
    • There's also Auden Avidius, a Imperial Watch Captain that is using his position to extort money from a few people, and if you call him out on it he'll put a 1000 gold bounty on your head. Getting Avidius arrested is one of the quests in the game, though this will lead to him breaking out of jail and attacking you.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the first sign that the rule of Imperial Law is starting to crumble in the outer provinces is that General Tullius and officers under his command will execute everyone they round up, without due process and without fear of reprisal.
  • Officer Tenpenny in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Pulaski even more so.
  • In Heavy Rain, when the Lieutenant Carter Blake breaks the door of the apartment owned by a suspect and the FBI agent Norman Jayden tells him that's a crime.
    Norman Jayden: I'm not sure that's entirely legal.
    Carter Blake: Call the cops.
  • In Hypnospace Outlaw, piracy is considered against the rules of Hypnospace. This doesn't stop one of the founders of Merchantsoft, Dylan Merchant, from setting up a site for illegally distributing music on The Alternet he helped create. If you put him to task and crack down on his website, he will revoke your Enforcer privileges and temporarily ban you from Hypnospace. By the time you return, his piracy site is back up and running, and no longer flagable as violating Hypnospace rules.
  • Kingdom Hearts: When the Red Queen puts Alice on trial for trying to steal her heart, Sora gathers evidence that proves the real culprits are the Heartless and Alice is innocent. When he presents it, the Queen angrilly orders her guards to attack anyway, saying that one of her laws is that anyone who defies the queen is automatically guilty. This is after she already gave Sora permission to find the culprit.
  • A heroic example in Mass Effect with Urdnot Wrex. The reforms that he's making for the krogan are not the most popular and he's not running much of a democracy. However, he is willing to listen to his advisors and the traditions that the other krogan are sticking to are so self-destructive that it is genuinely putting them on the path of extinction, and Wrex is determined to drag his fellow krogan kicking and screaming into a better future.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has Colonel Volgin. When Ocelot expresses his disgust at his methods after he killed Granin during a torture session, Volgin explicitly says that he's in command and doesn't need Ocelot's approval.
    • As far as chain of command goes a Colonel does have command authority over a Major so he was the one calling the shots over that operation. His argument does kind of fall apart when you consider that he is a villain who just got through killing a brilliant scientist who created Metal Gear, the titular mecha of the series, when he had no solid evidence that he was a spy and tortured him to death on a whim. Not to mention wanting to start a war with the United States and toppling the current Russian Government, he may have been the one making the rules but those rules were still corrupt.
    • There's also the small fact of Volgin being an absolute psychopath, and that questioning his orders would be a good way to end up dead.
  • A rare positive example, courtesy of Modern Warfare 3, when the head of the SAS Captain MacMillan goes outside of the law to help Captain Price and Soap, because no one will can tell him that he can't, because he's head of the SAS.
    • A more typical example comes from the next game, Call of Duty: Black Ops II. During Menendez' playable segment in the mission "Odysseus", you're given the option to shoot Admiral Briggs. If you shoot him in the head, Salazar reprimands you, saying "you said no unnecessary killing!" Menendez responds to this by claiming "I decide what is necessary!"
  • In Tyranny, the Fatebinder can explain to Lantry after sampling his Cerulean ink that being an agent of Tunon means that, unless the Archon himself contradicts them, their word is law. The Fatebinder gets several moments when they can enforce — or not — Kyros' laws in a way that benefits them.
    Fatebinder: Rhogalus says the legal term for that is Proxy Decisis. Calio says the legal term is "fuck you, I'm the law".
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Game Master Shiba flagrantly abuses his authority as overseer of the games by also being in charge of the Ruinbringers, the dominant team in the Reaper's Game, rigging the game so that the Ruinbringers always come out on top. While the victorious team has the right to come back to life, the Ruinbringers have always chosen to stay and continue playing, meaning that no one has come back to life after dozens of the games.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, Godot frequently dictates the rules as he sees fit ("It's one of my rules"), even though he's technically a rookie prosecutor and this is his first case. The Judge goes along with it, due to Refuge in Audacity.
    • A running theme in Ace Attorney Investigations. The Phantom Thief Yatagarasu deliberately goes after people who put themselves above the law through money or political power. This is usually businesses, but it extends quite easily to Cohdopian ambassadors.
    • Blaise Debeste of Investigations 2 flexes his clout as the Chairman of the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee while mocking Edgeworth's dedication to finding the truth. For someone in his position, "the truth" is whatever he wants it to be, and everybody else just has to suck it up and deal with it, or else they might find themselves convicted of a crime they most definitely, truthfully committed and spend the rest of their lives rotting in jail.
    • Redd White from the first game technically doesn't make the rules himself, but is blackmailing enough people who do that he can freely screw them as much as he pleases. He attempts to flex his influence to ensure he gets his way in court but it fails miserably (can't use your influence to stop someone from using solid evidence to show you're a heartless liar).
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, the final prosecutor faced is the queen of Khura'in, Ga'ran. Every time you start winning, she rewrites the law right in front of you to set you back again. To defeat her, you have to prove that she has no claim to the throne, thus invalidating all the laws she made.
    • The Big Bad of The Great Ace Attorney tries this but gets Out-Gambitted. Mael Stronghart tries to use his position as Lord Chief Justice of England to cover up a trial that reveals him to be behind a whole lot of murders, including blackmailing the infamous Serial Killer The Professor into murdering his rivals. Unfortunately for him, Herlock Sholmes is one step ahead of him and televises the whole thing to Queen Victoria, who promptly uses her authority to fire him from his position and order him to be prosecuted normally.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: General Ironwood holds two positions on the Atlas Council, and takes full advantage of it to see his way through the events of Vale after the breach, as well as in Mantle to maintain order and advance his plans of stopping Salem. In Volume 4, he threatens to use his seats to cause trouble for Jacques and his company if he steps out of line. He completely falls into this territory at the end of Volume 7 when he elects to abandon Mantle to Salem and raise Atlas into the sky, declaring martial law in the process so the rest of the Council can't object to it.
    Ironwood: . No one in; no one out. Without the council's permission.
    Jacques: You mean, without your permission?
    Ironwood: And if that becomes the case, I would think you'd want to be on my good side.

  • In El Goonish Shive, magic usually functions under the Magic A Is Magic A principle. However, magic is also a Sentient Cosmic Force with a will and objectives of its own (and a penchant for drama). If it wants to, it can completely change the rules of how it works, and is stated to have done this several times in the past.
    Emissary of Magic: Magic is a force capable of defying the physical laws of the universe. It doesn't have to work the way it does now.
  • In Flaky Pastry, Nitrine finally decides to shut up an Evil Chancellor with one line: Screw The Rules, I'm Royalty!
  • Baron Klaus Wulfenbach in Girl Genius is a firm believer in this as well. It's not so much him abusing his power, so much as it is him disregarding all the ridiculous contrivances that the Fifty Families make up.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • Miko Miyazaki comes to believe that this would happen if they were to bring Lord Shojo to court. So she executes him instead. The gods disagree with her assessment, and strip her of her powers.
    • Thor lets his cleric Durkon use a spell in a way that it's not supposed to because it's cool.
  • Paranatural: Boss Leader, though given the fact that she runs a secret society, it's more of her deciding who does or does not know certain things. Given the number of secrets the Consortium has to keep and her being the comatose medium of the Wight that the Consortium is based around, she does have some justification for making exceptions to the rules.
    Boss Leader: ...Look, kid, my first names is Boss and my last name is Leader. Rules only apply to me when they're looking for JOBS, 'cause I MAKE or BREAK the rules. SON.
  • Schlock Mercenary: General Bala-Amin points out that Commodore Tagon is in violation of his homeworld's laws on retired military personnel; taking a rank in a mercenary company in service to foreign power is considered treason. Commodore Tagon counters that he's the one who wrote the law, so he can rewrite it. On the next page he elaborates that he decided the law was unenforceable when he got kidnapped by the mob and not only did his government not attempt a rescue as the law mandated but gave the mobsters a pass through his homeworld's Teleport Interdiction field.
    General Bala-Amin: That's not actually how law works.
    Commodore Tagon: I know members of the legislature who would disagree with you under oath.
    General Bala-Amin: Okay, that's not how law works for regular people.
  • Sonichu: This is the attitude of Chris-chan. It is a very good thing that her real-world counterpart does not have this power in Real Life.
  • Tales from the Pit deals with the daily exploits of the creators of Magic: The Gathering, so it's not surprising that we'd see them abusing their power a little.

    Web Original 
  • A Dose of Buckley keeps a list of rules for his "Ten Worst Songs of 20XX" series, outlining which songs are disqualified for the list (e.g. any viral novelty song, any song not meant for mainstream radio, any song he reviews in a "Musical Autopsy", etc.). His first rule: "I can break any of my own rules whenever I feel it is necessary".
  • I Hate Everything decided not to include Bionicle: Mask of Light in his ranking for the Search for the Worst due to finding it not as bad as he expected it to be, and because it wasn't technically part of the IMDB bottom 100. Also applies to several other films that weren't in the bottom 100, such as The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure and The Last Airbender.
  • In Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline, a more unified socialist Worker's Party wins the 1932 election by a landslide. Essentially the knee-jerk reaction of the capitalist elite and conversative politicians, lead by First Secretary Nicholas Longworth, is this trope mixed with Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. Longworth manages to recruit the ardent anti-Communist General Douglas MacArthur to his side. Together, they manage to pressure President Herbert Hoover into declare the whole election void and suspend the Constitution. Following this, Longworth heads a mass arrest of the leadership of the Worker's Party, while MacArthur gathers a group of soldiers loyal to him and have them carry out the very public assassination of Socialist President-elect Norman Thomas. They learn very quickly that no, they don't make the rules anymore, and their actions results in the very revolution they were scaremongering about to justify their actions.
  • TLF Travel Alerts occasionally decide just to close lines down because they are in charge and can do what they want. Sucks if you need the Victoria or Bakerloo line. Delays.
  • LegalEagle points this out at the end of Real Lawyer Reacts To The Simpsons (Itchy & Scratchy Trial) when, even after acknowledging that The Day The Violence Died has a number of legal mistakes and oversights, he never-the-less gives it a very generous A- for legal realism:
    Legal Eagle: Maybe I'm giving them a high grade just because I love this episode so, so much, but it's my show and I can do whatever I want!
    Bart: There's something unsettling about that...

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In one episode, Robotnik decides to demote Coconuts after he himself is tricked by Sonic even though Coconuts wasn't even there at the time, because, as he puts it, "I'm the boss! I can blame whoever I want!"
  • In All Hail King Julien, Julien frequently gets himself into trouble because he thinks he's immune to consequences.
    Maurice: Your majesty, this (an election) is not a good idea.
    Julien: Don't worry Maurice, I'm king! I can't lose! It's what they call "political correctness".
    Maurice: King Julien, that's not how an election works!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The episode "Avatar Day" features an anti-Avatar celebration in Chin Village because Avatar Kyoshi killed Chin the Great, which leads to Aang, Kyoshi's reincarnation, taking the heat for it and being tried in a Kangaroo Court that led to him being sentenced to being boiled in oil. However, when a Fire Nation squad invades the village and goes on a rampage, the terrified mayor quickly changes Aang's sentence to community service to allow him to fight the Fire Nation off.
  • In the Biker Mice from Mars two-part episode "The Reeking Reign of the Head Cheese", when Charley informs Lawrence Limburger, who has made himself mayor of Chicago by kidnapping the mayor and taking advantage of his status as a Villain with Good Publicity, that he can't demolish a building while people are still inside it, Limburger rationalizes that as mayor he can do whatever he wants.
  • Buzz Lightyear himself sort of veers into this trope for the pilot movie of his show, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. He won't allow himself to take on another partner, but when he's repeatedly reminded of Star Command regulations requiring him to have a partner, he constantly has to remind everyone that he knows the regulations perfectly well; he wrote half of them, and the rules apply to everyone equally. Well, everyone except him, as Mira accuses him of doing by refusing to take on another partner.
  • In Danny Phantom, this is Walker's attitude with his "rules". In his Establishing Character Moment, he arrests Danny, THEN makes what Danny was doing at the time illegal.
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter Griffin's song in "E. Peterbus Unum" (the episode where he builds a micronation out of his estate) could be "Screw The Rules I Make Them", the anthem:
      Peter: AH, AH, AH, can't touch me!
      Can't touch me!
      Juh-juh-juh-juh-just like the bad guys from Lethal Weapon 2
      I've got diplomatic immunity
      So Hammer you can't sue!
      I can write graffiti even jaywalk in the street
      I can riot, loot, not give a hoot
      And touch your sister's teat
      Can't touch me!
      Can't touch me!
      Mayor West: What in god's name is he doing?
      Peter: Can't touch me!
      Cleveland: I believe that's the worm.
      Peter: Stop! Peter time!
      I'm a big shot
      There's no doubt
      Light a fire then pee it out
      Don't like it? Kiss my rump
      Just for a minute let's all do the bump
      Yeah, do the Peter Griffin bump
      I'm presidential Peter
      Interns think I'm hot
      Don't care if you're handicapped
      I'll still park in your spot
      I've been around the world
      From Hartford to Bombay
      It's Peter, go Peter, I'm Peter, yo Peter, let's see Regis rap this way
      Cant touch me!
      * Beat*
      Peter: Except for you, you can touch me.
    • In the episode "Cool Hand Peter," Peter, Cleveland, Joe, and Quagmire run afoul of the Small-Town Tyrant Sheriff Nichols in Georgia who acts this way. First, he accuses them of having a taillight and turn signal out, and then smashes both of them himself. When Joe shows him his police badge, Nichols promptly disposes of it before deliberately planting a bag of marijuana in the trunk and sending them to prison for two weeks, which he somehow manages to extend to thirty days. When the boys escape, the sheriff and his deputies chase them all the way to Quahog, but Joe anticipates this and places a call to the Quahog cops, who surround Nichols and his crew. Joe quickly gets in a little revenge by smashing up Nichols' car and then shoots him in the leg, before telling him that just because he's a cop doesn't mean that he can do whatever he wants and forcing him out of Quahog.
  • In Gargoyles, at one point Oberon decrees that his magic will no longer affect Goliath's clan. However, when they later come into conflict again, Oberon uses his magic against the gargoyles indirectly, such as by summoning freezing rain or gale-force winds. When Goliath calls him out on this, Oberon replies "My decrees are mine to interpret!"
  • Stavros Garkos and his brother Spiro Garkos in Hurricanes.
  • Kaeloo does this a lot. If anyone questions her behavior during a game, they'll get a response along the lines of:
    Kaeloo: This is my game, and I'll do whatever I want!
  • In The Legend of Korra, flashbacks showed that back when Toph was Chief of Police in Republic City, when her daughter Suyin was arrested for being a getaway driver for one of the gangs, she quickly destroyed the police report and covered it up. This led to a rift developing between Suyin and her sister Lin (who was the one who arrested her in the first place).
  • Muppet Babies (1984): In the episode "Kermit Goes to Washington", Baby Piggy excuses that the rules are hers to interpret when the children have a boat race in the bathroom. Afterward, Nanny explains why you can't do this when playing with others, and why fair play is important.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "Baby, It's Cold Outside, Part 1", King Charlatan has this approach towards morality — sticking to the rules of ethics is for people who don't dictate them, as far as he's concerned.
      When you are king, you may decide what is and is not right. But I am king now, and what I say is law!
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: At the end of "School Daze", when Twilight Sparkle needs to get EEA approval to open her school and fails in part due to the guy doing the approving being a racist jerk and in part due to the school having some safety and quality concerns. She ultimately decides to just open the school anyway, in spite of the rule that even a princess can't go against the EEA's decision, knowing full-well nobody is willing or able to actually enforce the rule and prevent her from making up a new one on the spot that allows the school to open:
      Twilight Sparkle: It's not an EEA school. It's a friendship school with its own rules. I should know. I wrote the book!
  • The Emperor's Coven of The Owl House. By law, all Witches have to join a Coven which locks away all magic not related to that Coven's focus. Those who refuse to join one are considered criminals. The Emperor's Coven, however, suffers no such limitation, as they enforce said law.
  • Justified in Shadow Raiders. Prince Pyrus tends to do this, but he mainly uses it to get around the highly xenophobic policies of his planet, which tend to get in the way of the Alliance.
  • Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons invokes this trope on a regular basis. He makes little or no attempt to hide his corrupt dealings, and seems convinced that he can get away with anything since "he cannot be removed from office except by a recall election". Any sane town would have kicked him out (and jailed him) long ago, but the people of Springfield somehow re-elect him every term.
  • South Park: Mr. Garrison holds this attitude during his tenure as President of the United States, using his newfound power to commit awful crimes like raping his cabinet members, intimidating people into performing sexual favors for him, and even launching a nuclear missile at Canada.
  • Cad Bane in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "I'm in control. I make the rules now." Of course, he is speaking as a hostage taker, not as an authority figure.
    • More conventionally, Moralo Eval sets up an elaborate challenge for a bunch of bounty hunters recruited by Dooku. Obi-Wan, disguised as bounty hunter Rako Hardeen, keeps screwing up his death traps by teaching the participants to get around them with a higher survival rate than he wants. Fed up, he sets up a sniper challenge (Hardeen's specialty). Obi-Wan's force-guided reflexes are ably to easily pass it... were it not for the fact that Eval only gave his rifle enough charge to shoot four of the five required targets (a fact he doesn't mention until Hardeen fails). Cad Bane saves Hardeen, since he considers such flagrant cheating unsporting.
  • Total Drama: Chris McLean is this trope. Not only does he often change the rules to "make things more interesting" (read: dangerous and/or life-threatening), he does so with a great amount of sadistic glee.
    • Real World Example: During the U.S. finale of Revenge of the Island, the voting polls were open to decide the winner of the season (Zoey, Lightning, or Cameron). When the finale aired in the U.S., the network ignored the votes, and decided to go with Lightning as the winner, even though Cameron was in the lead in the polls and won in literally every other country that had aired the show up to that point (as of May 2016, Lightning has also won in the Philippines).
    • They would do the exact same thing a second time with the US finale of Pahkitew Island. Sky had the most votes in the blog asking fans who they wanted to win yet Shawn's ending was the one that aired.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): A Law Unto Themselves


Chris throws out an intern

Chris ignores the vote to eliminate Duncan and chucks an intern out of the plane instead.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ScrewTheRulesIMakeThem

Media sources: